“Sit with your anxiety” (ACT)

I recently did a 1 month ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) workshop for anxiety. I’m not certain yet how much it has helped me, but it was certainly interesting, and I learned dome things about myself from activities we completed. We spent a fair bit on time talking about defusion of anxiety, and learning to accept our anxiety for what it is. One suggestion to accomplish this was to simply ‘sit with your anxiety’, to catalogue how it feels, be aware of your thoughts etc.. I decided to give this one a try when I was anxious about a presentation I had to give.

Now, I’m not sure if I was delusional or what, but I did not expect this activity to be as overwhelming as it was. This may seem obvious, but it wasn’t to me: sitting with your anxiety feels awful. I was entirely unprepared for how bad it feels. I guess I’m quite good at keeping my anxiety at arm’s length so that I don’t have to feel its full force. 

Had my anxiety been over something smaller, or something that might pass, I might have tried to sit with my anxiety until it passed or died down. I knew that wasn’t going to happen with my presentation, so I just stuck it out for a few minutes before allowing myself to do something distracting. For those few moments, physically, I didn’t feel so hot, it was hard not to think about how upset my stomach felt, or to not notice the nervous energy in my limbs. However, in those few moments, the anxious thoughts slowed down a little because I was focusing on other things.

All in all, I think sitting with your anxiety is a good exercise to try at least once, just keep in mind that it doesn’t feel very good while you’re doing it!

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